The Serious Fraud Office has finally closed its longest-running case. Syedur Rahman of corporate crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli considers reasons why the agency may never take so long over any future investigations.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has closed its investigation into Polly Peck; its longest-running case.
The investigation, which had been open since 1990, had been in the in-tray of all but one of the SFO’s nine directors. Polly Peck’s former chairman Asil Nadir fled to Turkish Cyprus in 1993 after the SFO charged him with embezzling millions from the company. He returned to the UK in 2010 to face trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012.
As a case, Polly Peck made the headlines. So it is no surprise when you hear voices of disenchantment when SFO investigations go on for so many years. There is clearly an issue with budget restraints and limited resources for the SFO. There can be no other reason for investigations of this type to go on for so long.
Having said that, it seems that since the August 2018 appointment of Lisa Osofsky as SFO director a number of old investigations have been closed. This could suggest that the SFO is now looking to focus on new investigations. As there are new tools available – particularly in relation to artificial intelligence – that can help the SFO make better use of its resources, it has to be hoped that the agency takes full advantage of them.
The SFO has already taken some steps in this direction, while the current director has made clear her desire to speed up investigations. Whether this means the SFO will never have another case on its books for almost 30 years remains to be seen.